The war on drugs, with its “tough on crime” policies, was created in the 1970’s, and has been responsible for locking young people up for decades. Many of these people are still in prison, for non-violent crimes. Mother Jones reported that today there are almost a quarter of a million people behind bars who are 50 years of age, or older. Many older prisoners have significant health problems, yet they are not released. This is particularly true in the federal prison system.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has a policy in place that would allow chronically ill or dying prisoners, as well as prisoners who are deemed to have compelling reasons, to be released early, and yet such releases are few and far between.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have released a new report, The Answer is No: Too Little Compassionate Release in U.S. Federal Prisons, which provides information on the BOP’s policy in dealing with dying inmates, and others who petition the agency for an early release. Beside the humane reason for releasing a sick or dying prisoner, financial considerations are also addressed in the report. When the average cost of incarcerating an individual is factored with the added cost of medical treatment for older or terminally ill inmates, the numbers can be staggering.
FAMM and HRW examine all sides of the compassionate release issue, and offer solid recommendations for fixing the present ineffective and costly (in terms of life and tax dollars) system.